Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fluff allegation about Mary Murphy's reporting on Bobov - Rejoinder

I would like to take up your offer to post my rejoinder [to your post about Mary Murphy].
You have my full permission to post it, in its entirety, as long as I am credited and there is a link to my posting.
Thanking you in advance,

Yerachmiel Lopin
Just a couple of observations.
 1) Lopin is the one who concluded that there was a coverup - not Mary Murphy. He claims based on earlier reports - her report confirms that there was a coverup.

2) Lopin states, I keep saying, “If true,” because Rabbi Eidensohn bases his dismissal of the story on the premise that Mary Murphy is a dumb, sloppy or dishonest reporter. He doesn’t explicitly say it but why else would he dismiss a report that documents molesting and a cover-up. Lopin is correct I never said that Mary Murphy is a dumb, sloppy or dishonest reporter. I did say that the report on this topic was a poor job and that certain facts were not verified and those that were presented were not clearly presented in context. This is especially problematic for a reporter who has won 18 emmies for her reporting! He says ,"why else would he dismiss a report that documents molestering and a coverup". It is strange because in my post I explained very clearly why I dismissed the report. She never confirmed that her informant was a parent as he claimed. If she had evidence of a coverup why didn't she present it to the police? If she did why did they dismiss it and concluded that there was no basis for the allegations?  My point is that is one must conclude either the police or Mary Murphy is wrong. I accept the conclusions of the police.

3) The police investigated the allegations and reported that there were no basis to the allegations. If there is evidence presented that makes the police change their minds -I would have no problem of accepting that there was abuse and a coverup. However Mary Murphy has only reported allegations,rumors and an anonymous person claiming to be a father who said that the kids were told not to talk to each other. That is not a coverup but is excellent advise to prevent interfering with the police investigation. If it was claimed that the kids were told not to speak to the police - then that would indicate a coverup. Mary Murphy did not reach such a conclusion.[to be continued]


Did Bobov Cover Up Molesting at Shalvah, Its Boys Camp?

August 27, 2012
I say there was a cover up based on earlier reports which were confirmed by Mary Murphy’s report on WPIX 11.

Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn used his blog Daas Torah to disparage her report as,
A fluff piece on alleged abuse at Camp Shalva. . . . An embarrassingly poor job of reporting which serves primarily to convey rumors and hearsay.

WPIX 11 reporter Mary Murphy said she interviewed the father of one camper, who spoke to his son who was in the camp. This father shared this communication from a camper.

Boys are saying they were tickled on their legs and you know what that means. . . . . . The kids were warned that morning that they should not be talking to each other about the incident.

This is shocking. If true, there was a cover up. If true, the reason the police had no allegations of molesting is because the boys were intimidated into lying to the police. If true, the police may have been quite competent but they were stymied by the same forces that routinely protect ultra orthodox molesters. If true, Jewish children are being endangered because a molester is not being prosecuted.  If true, this news report is not a fluff piece. If true, the only fluff is the Shalvah party line that tranquility reigns and the kids were safe that night.

I keep saying, “If true,” because Rabbi Eidensohn bases his dismissal of the story on the premise that Mary Murphy is a dumb, sloppy or dishonest reporter. He doesn’t explicitly say it but why else would he dismiss a report that documents molesting and a cover-up.

I am inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt. She is a professional with 30 years experience in NYC who has won 18 Emmy awards for reporting. Someone in her position does not take the risk of fabricating a story. In fact we can safely assume she followed the professional protocol of confirming that the interviewee was indeed a father of a camper. This was a minor story for a major media figure. Why would she run such a story unless she did her homework and was convinced it was true and was convinced that she could not be sued for recklessly besmirching Camp Shalvah?

So I think the story is true, kids were sexually molested, someone in Camp Shalvah obstructed reporting, and Yoel Oberlander will get another chance. The slap on the wrist for a minor trespass will not do much to protect children. The kids will also be harmed by the knowledge that grown ups belittle and lie about their experiences. They will learn to “Not to make trouble.”

Rabbi Eidensohn, you have no grounds for questioning Mary Murphy’s integrity as a reporter. On these matters, I would say she has a chezkas kashrus (a presumption of trustworthiness). Regrettably, the administrators of most frum camps and yeshivas cannot be trusted to report molesting to the police. I see no proof that they reported this intrusion by a registered sex offender.

Rabbi Eidensohn, I hope you will reconsider your posting and correct it to reflect the significance of the father’s allegation and Mary Murphy’s professional credibility.


  1. Rabbi Eidensohn,

    Above you wrote:
    She never confirmed that her informant was a parent as he claimed. If she had evidence of a coverup why didn't she present it to the police? If she did why did they dismiss it and concluded that there was no basis for the allegations? My point is that is one must conclude either the police or Mary Murphy is wrong. I accept the conclusions of the police.

    She stated it was parent, not of a victim, but of one of the other boys in the bunk. We both know that professional journalists make sure they they confirm the identity of their interviewees. So unless you accuse her of being unprofessional in this instance we should assume she confirmed the identity of the father as having a boy in camp.

    Secondly, the police have "no allegations" until one of the victims themselves says something. We both understand that the essence of the many coverups involve making sure that the victim says "nothing happened" even if it is a lie. The police can be pretty sure from other facts that something happened, but what can they do? From what I am told, the police have all the information that Mary got and more. They are frustrated but stuck. This has happened many times and will keep on happening until enough of the cover up artists and intimidators get thrown in jail.

  2. Why would anyone take Lopin serious enough to bother even refuting his incoherent logic.

  3. I'm happy this topic came up again because I did want to get a chance to address it from a different angle.
    Rabbi Eidensohn, I leave it up to your discretion whether you want to post this as a comment or perhaps as a separate entry, since it does deal with the story from a different perspective.

    So we know that we are in dark regarding whether molestation actually occurred or not. However I do feel it is important to discuss WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE IDEAL RESPONSE on the part of Hanhala even in the case where it is true that no molestation took place.

    So firstly, I believe rumors spread extremely easily amongst campers. Even rumors that have no basis to them tend to somehow how a life of their own in camps. Thus I am sure that all the boys heard about the alleged molestation, discussed it, wondered and worried about it, and perhaps some where even traumatized by it.
    Some questions that I’m sure were circling campers’ minds are, “why did this man come into the bunks? What did he want to do? What does “molestation” mean? How do I know he won’t come back tonight and are we actually safe? What is a “sex offender registry,” and what does it mean that he was on it? This Yoily Oberlander lives next door to my grandparents, I even knows his kids, so how could it be that he would do something wrong? After all he is frum………….…..right?” And I’m sure the list goes on.
    So perhaps this should have been used as a teaching moment for the kids, explaining to them how they can and should protect themselves in the future if the need arises, and finding age appropriate answers to their questions. Just like Chai Lifeline has their “Crisis Intervention” department, (may we never need to use it,) I do feel that as a community we need to develop some organization that camps and schools would invite to come in and speak to their campers/students, or at least guide Hanhala about what to say and what symptoms to look out for to make sure this incident doesn’t leave a negative mark Chas Vesholom on any child.
    Secondly, I’m sure there are many parents that feel quite mistrustful of Bobov right now, and rightfully so, since as we have already established that in the not so far-back past Hanhalas tended to cover-up abuse rather than deal with it. I feel Bobov should have send out a letter to their parent-body explaining what happened, explaining what changes have been made security-wise in the camp to ensure it won’t happen again, and even setting up a hotline to answer any concerns parents might have, specifically in regards to how they should speak to their kids about this.

    And lastly, since we
    presently don’t have the best record in the media for dealing with abuse affectively and properly, I do believe we need to learn how to be open and transparent with the media, so that we start to slowly rebuild our trustworthiness.

    It doesn’t seem like we can actually get to the bottom of whether this was a cover-up or not, however I believe that we would accomplish much more if we spoke in terms of WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN THE IDEAL RESPONSE, (even it is true that no molestation occurred,)

    1. you raise a number of excellent points. However you assume that Bobov has not done any type of action. If it is true - then I agree with your point. Is your assertion based on knowledge or are you simply assuming it?

      There are in fact programs - for camps and schools based on the Aleinu program from Debbie Fox in L.A. I know that Meir Frishman published a pamphlet in 2006 that addressed the issue of child abuse in camps.

      See following



      http://www.thejewishstar.com/stories/Camp-directors-learn-about-preventingabuse,1713 - and download linked pamphet

    2. Daas Torah, don't you believe that if Bobov did any of these things it would be so sensational in our world, that we would all hear about it immediately, given that it is such a departure from what was done in the past? Also, in regards to the media I think it is quite plain to see that they pushed them out as much as possible, instead of being outright and upfront with them.
      My point is that had Bobov taken the above mentioned steps all these blogs wondering and accusing them of covering up wouldn't be happening.
      Also, I feel writing about what we do expect and hope to see in the future (if the need arises) shows hanhalas that it is actually doable. You could satisfy the public if you take the right steps. (and the public surely deserves to be satisfied!)

    3. There is an major difference between whether they did the ideal and whether they went in the opposite direction. I think you agree that what they did was a major improvement over what would have happened in the not too distant past. Media is a tricky problem and there is the real danger that they are more interested in a "story" than doing what is best. I am not sure certain blogs would not have found something to smear them with. Again read the material I linked and you will see that the theoretical framewook is basically in place - the issue is complying with it. However it is clear that it is not just a chassidic problem or a Jewish problem.

      I don't think the staff of Camp Shalvah reads blogs - including this one. However they are concerned about publicity and even more so with legal liability and lawsuits.

      The public is not the final judge nor are the blogs. there are many issues that are best left out of the public domain - for the welfare of the children. I agree that there is a sizeable overlap - but they are not identical.

  4. ForDaas,

    I think you are making a very good point. There does need to be model protocol or a set of guidelines or best practices. You have laid out sensible point of departure for such a model.

    However, your model presupposes a belief that candor and openess are desirable. That is not yet the view in most of the community. There is growing recognition of the scope of the problem of child sex abuse and its immense damage. There are steps being taken to deter it such as cameras, policies about who can be around kids, and tighter security procedures. In that regard Bobov, in theory, is a model. I am still trying to understand how Oberlander got into a locked bunk. At a minimum, Bobov should tell their parents what they will do to prevent an intrusion in the future.


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